10 THINGS I LEARNED WHILE PUBLISHING MY DEBUT

It’s hard to believe that less than two years after I typed the first page of Symptoms of Being Human, its publication in hardback is just one month away. It’s been a challenging, thrilling journey, and the book isn’t even out yet! To celebrate the impending release of my debut, I’m going to share ten things I learned during the process.

1. WRITING BAD IS GOOD

I dream big and my expectations are high. I quickly learned that in order to finish a book I had to let myself write poorly. A) It’s rarely as bad as you think and B) You’re going to rewrite it anyway. For this reason, I highly recommend NaNoWriMo as a gateway to starting your career.

2. ROUTINE IS CRITICAL

I had a full-time job and an hour commute when I wrote Symptoms of Being Human. I started getting up at four a.m. before work to write. After struggling through the first two weeks, it became a habit, and if I skipped a day, I’d get grumpy. CREATING HABITS WORKS. Get addicted to writing and you’re guaranteed to finish. I recommend The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

3. IT TAKES A LONG TIME

My publishing journey took just five years from first word typed to published novel. That’s relatively short—but it feels like forever! Make a five-year plan—then sit down at the keyboard and focus on the work. Your break will come when it comes.

4. HAVE MORE THAN ONE IDEA

I have this friend who knows this one guy who wrote four whole manuscripts before he finally sold a book. Don’t bank your whole life on one idea—keep writing! Even Harper Lee had a second book.

5. GO TO CONFERENCES

Being an unpublished writer is exceedingly lonely, and Twitter and Tumblr can only help so much. Go to writers’ conferences! You’ll meet writers, editors, and agents, and you’ll get a feel for the publishing community—which is 99% book nerds and it’s AWESOME.

6. TAKE STUPID PICTURES

The life of a not-yet-published writer is depressingly unphotogenic [see my Instagram for proof in the form of pictures of cats and food.] If you were a professional surfer, you’d have amazing shots of all your accomplishments; as a writer, not so much. So, take selfies with your printed-out manuscripts to remind yourself that you actually typed all those damn words.

Wear a cool sweater and mess up your hair James Potter-style for extra authenticity.

Wear a cool sweater and mess up your hair James Potter-style for extra authenticity.

7. CELEBRATE EVERYTHING

The publishing life is a roller coaster ride of winning, losing, and waiting. Celebrate every victory, because another challenge is coming. Finish a draft? Treat yourself to dinner out. Land an agent? Get cupcakes. Sell a book? Dance and scream in the street. I literally did all these things.

8. PITCHES AND SYNOPSES ARE AS IMPORTANT AS THEY ARE PAINFUL

Distilling a 350-page manuscript to a single paragraph can be excruciating—but it’s incredibly useful. A) You’ll begin to see the holes in your story and the fat that needs trimming and B) You’ll learn how to talk about your book to other people, whether they’re friends, agents, or potential readers.

9. DON’T BE IN A HURRY TO GET AN AGENT

An agent isn’t an imposing guardian of the Secret of Publishing; she’s a book-loving human being who wants to discover good work and help put it out into the world. As you finish your manuscript and begin to query and attend conferences, consider yourself a student of the business. Create relationships by asking questions, listening, and relating. Your work will be ready when it’s ready.

10. YOUR BOOK ISN’T FINISHED

Leonardo da Vinci said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” If you take that to heart, you’ll ride out the publishing journey in good spirits. Don’t get too attached to any part of your book. Keep your ideas fluid and remind yourself that you’re incredibly creative—you can always come up with more and better solutions to story and character problems.

Rachel Ekstrom, Jeff Garvin, Kristin Rens

Rachel Ekstrom (my incomparable agent), Me, and Kristin Rens (my amazing editor)

ONE MONTH TO GO

I’m looking forward to so many things: my launch event on 2/2/16 (details forthcoming.) Appearing at NovaTeen and LA Times Festival of Books. Doing school visits. Reading aloud from Symptoms. Signing books with my purple Sharpies and my badass new Riley Hair Stamp. And, most of all, meeting readers!

There’s so much to do: PR, interviews, booking flights, editing my next novel, finally configuring Google Analytics properly. There’s stuff you can help with, too—you can add Symptoms of Being Human on Goodreads. You can tweet about it. You can preorder it. And you can save the date, because on Feb 2, 2016, Symptoms of Being Human comes out in hardback!

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Jeff Garvin

Author of SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN. Vegan, Gryffindor, aspiring revolutionary.

Comments (4)

  • Brian Trinen

    |

    Thanks for sharing all that Jeff. It’s inspiring to see how successful a strait forward method of persistent work can be. I think the general approach you’re outlining could be applied to any creative endevour with success. Tenacity works!

    Reply

  • Jeff Cogan

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    It’s so nice to see such enthusiasm in anticipation of the the book coming out! You have every right to be excited and hopeful for the potential success of your writing career. I take pride in knowing that it is most likely your study of classical guitar at Chapman University that gave you the highly developed right brain activity needed to be creative in your field. For that, I take full responsibility. As researchers at UC Irvine have noted, “music makes you smarter”.
    But one thing troubles me. How in heck did you figure away to write an entire book about being humid? I mean being humid is uncomfortable, granted, but a whole book? Wait, what? Oh, “HUMAN”. Well that’s different. As Emily Latella used to say, (Saturday Night Live) never mind.

    Reply

    • Jeff Garvin

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      Jeff, the credit is all yours. And, as you know, humidity is an important part of guitar care.

      Reply

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